American Rescue Plan Virtual Meeting Questions & Answers

Page updated on May 12, 2021 at 12:35 PM

May 8 Virtual American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Public Meeting

View the meeting in its entirety.

Questions unanswered during the meeting, with a written staff response:

  • It's great to coordinate things like expanding ESL classes with the libraries, but they are still on a very limited schedule. What is the plan to get our library system fully open and can some of the money be used to facilitate that?
    • Our current goal is to reopen libraries on Sundays in July. At this time, we are evaluating our staffing levels to determine further reopening possibilities. Thank you for the question.
  • Why aren't current allocations in marketing tourism sufficient?  Why is additional investment needed?
    • The hospitality sector, including our shops, restaurants, attractions, and hotels in particular, have been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. We see the need to not only capitalize on pent-up demand for travel to accelerate recovery of in the short run, but also see opportunities to expand our awareness among potential visitors to generate additional revenue for the longer term. Because our annual ad budgets have always been low compared with our national “top small city” competitors, we have emphasized conversion over awareness.  While cost-effective, a conversion-based strategy limits Alexandria’s long-term tourism growth, a fact borne out by our 2019 Destination Analysts market research study. The study found high enthusiasm for Alexandria among those that have visited in the past or are familiar with the destination, while the top deterrent to visitation from our target markets is lack of familiarity (over 40% of East Coast travelers have not heard of us or do not know enough about us). If funding is available, we intend to use new targeted media tactics across multiple channels to raise awareness of Alexandria to our key drive markets. In addition to motivating overnight travel, we want to also maintain our efforts in promoting our small business community to the DC regional audience. We also see opportunities to expand our marketing outreach to Black and Latino audiences through content development, advertising and PR outreach. Finally, we want to accelerate meetings recovery through marketing and incentives since business travel supports our hospitality industry during weekdays, with higher per traveler spending than leisure travelers.

Questions answered through a staff comment during the meeting:

  • Are there any early intervention and diversion funds for mental health proposed for this money?           
    • Yes - it can be included in the proposal for mental health and substance use support with Courts.
  • Do we have an initial framework on what amounts or percents of ARPA would be used to help market Alexandria which in turn would help all industries and the city itself recover?
    • We do not have amounts or percents at this time. We are in gathering feedback.
  • I'd like to send the Dep. City Manager a video of the water pouring over the property line to help in consideration of changing code re: stormwater and construction.
    • For specific concerns, please use 311 and we can work with you individually.

Questions answered live by staff that can be found in meeting recording:

  • As a manager of organizations large and small for over 50 years, I hope to be assured from this webinar that the intent of this law will be followed. In this regard, families, local small businesses and organizations that were affected by the pandemic should take top priority in allocating funding. Too many families have already self-evicted, with more to come. This is life itself...not just quality of life. While this may appear to be emergency assistance, it is a long-term investment. Similarly, jobs and job training are the ONLY answers for individuals and families. All mechanisms to deal with these issues should strengthened and supported to translate plans into reality. Government agencies and non-profits can best carry out these tasks. Once funding is provided for these objectives, other goals and objectives can be addressed. Thank you for your attention.
  • This is an interesting mix of proposals, can you explain why you are proposing these specific programs and how they will have a sustainable impact on our community?
  • Do the housing programs include perm anent supportive housing?
  • People are getting support in other ways -- unemployment insurance, tax credits -- why do we need these programs.
  • Because these are federal dollars - will there be any restrictions on how they city will use these funds? For example, creating housing programs for our immigrant/undocumented families
  • Would the access issues include creating a Food Security Director to increase coordination among food programs and help Hunger Free Alexandria?
  • Is the funding taking into consideration the currently plans such as the CHIP plan and connecting funding to some identified strategies?
  • Has there been any consideration to using the existing shelters or expanding them with the goal of reaching out especially to those self-evicting to provide a halfway house for them as assistance is provided to them to find affordable housing?
  • What are the shovel ready projects for adding to the city's affordable housing inventory?
  • Will mental health services include non-emergency needs?
  • Will the services include an increase substance use disorder counselors?
  • The basic income pilot would be a good way to provide choice and independence to low-income families. It’s great to see that. Could we bake into this some research funding, so that information and data can be gathered on what works best and how this would work in tandem with city services and nonprofit services?
  • The City did an incredible job partnering with Alexandria's nonprofit community in utilizing CARES Act funding to address important community needs.  How will Alexandria's nonprofit community be engaged in these efforts?
  • Will childcare services include expanded services during evenings and weekends?
  • Housing: are we looking at closed hotels for housing units?
  • Has there been any considering taking connecting the funding to the current plans outlined in the CHIP (Community Health Improvement Plan) which include topics like mental health, housing, transportation and more? There was much work in creating it and a great deal of community input in creating the CHIP.
  • Health Access continues to be an issue for our undocumented families even before COVID. Many families wait until they are sick and go to the ER due to the lack of health access. Can resources go to expand health access services such as dental, vision and other medical/preventative care?
  • The hotel industry has been one of the most adversely affected industries by the pandemic and one of the slowest to recover.  At the height of the pandemic, our business was down 100% resulting in the furloughing of more than 100 team members.  Even today, 14 months later, we are down more than 60% in revenues to 2019 and still have nearly 50 team members furloughed.  The owners of the business have lost millions. In order for us to return to being a thriving contributor to Alexandria’s community and economic success it is imperative that measures be taken, such as tax relief, be granted to our owners.  Please tell me what specific tax relief measures are being considered to ensure that the hotel industry, one of the least assisted to this point in the pandemic, will be through the ARP?
  • Can you please explain what the early childcare workforce initiative will be?
  • will the arts funding be for both arts organizations and individual artists?
  • Is there any consideration to closing the 200 block of King on weekends, especially during the summer?
  • How will the City consider racial equity when providing the support for small businesses?  Many businesses led by people of color historically haven't had access to resources/support?
  • The workforce dev. proposals seem to focus on only people who are or were in the workforce. Will funds be used for people just entering the workforce?
  • As the director of Kyo Gallery here in Old Town, we’ve seen Covid hit the art community hard in both the performing and visual sectors. Even as restrictions lift and we begin to open and operate in the safest way possible, we must make sure to create and develop ways on how to keep Alexandria’s cultural rebound sustained and viable.

    Directing funds to tourism and local business initiatives, workforce assistance, and the hospitality industry are ways to help art organizations like mine, including of course the art focused initiatives. Will these programs carry a major focus for funding? While we have a lot of areas that need help, we have to make sure local business and the art sector remain robust as a foundation of the city itself.
  • Do any of these proposals specifically address the creation of and support for a BID in Old Town or any other part of the city?
  • Will the funding for upskilling services for re-employment (English language training and digital literacy, for example) be designed to coordinate with the services offered by the public library? Could this funding help to support the library’s offerings?
  • Are there workforce development proposals that can support people who need to shift careers?
  • Considering that the pandemic has really hit the hospitality pretty hard, many in hospitality businesses have been having a difficult time hiring staff. Some of the reasons include that many have pivoted to another industry and another is pay and lack of benefits such as health, how would funding help to address the workforce pipeline and address benefits?
  • Will workforce training funding include awareness of programs for community members? Many people don’t know all the programs that currently exist.
  • Will there be collaboration between Alexandria and Fairfax Co on marketing efforts to benefit all?
  • With obviously more proposals than money, how will the city decide which proposals get funding and at what level? Will this be a public process? Will there be a public hearing on the final proposals/funding levels? Could the funded projects be revisited/changed? Will the next council have a chance to have input in this opportunity or will the current council have the final say?
  • How are we working to ensure we get as much money as possible from this opportunity?
  • Flooding and stormwater is a huge issue; what kinds of projects can be completed within the time frame and will that free up city funding to tackle some of the other projects that will take longer?
  • During the pandemic we saw how the digital divide and lack of internet and computer access had a huge impact on students, employment opportunities, access to resources, etc.  Can you speak to what's included in the specific digital equity initiatives? And is there a way to work with Alexandria's nonprofit community on these initiatives?
  • Will any of this money go to expand the fund for grants to private property owners?
  • Will the Digital Equity initiatives include creating a director or manager for these initiatives? Concerned that if that position is not created then the initiatives will lack focus and coordination.
  • Are the locations of these spot projects being looked at through an equity lens? Or will the rich, angry, noisy people in old town get all the money as always?
  • How are we working to ensure we get as much money as possible from this opportunity?
  • Will you be looking at city zoning/construction to address what is allowed in neighborhoods? For example, a neighbor doubled the size of his house but fell within the limit of having to address the stormwater on his own property. It now all flows onto my and my neighbor's property. There appears to be nothing we can do.

May 10 Virtual American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Public Meeting

View the meeting in its entirety.

Questions unanswered during the meeting, with a written staff response:

  • Thank you all for giving us the chance to ask questions! 
    • Thank you for attending and providing your input!
  • I attended the first hearing and just wanted to follow-up and thank city staff for answering my questions and presenting these proposals for the local art community. As a gallery operator here in Old Town, I realize that sometimes maintaining focus on the history, the culture and the arts can be difficult, especially during times like these. But since these aspects support a large portion of the city; its businesses and residents alike, I hope that we can make sure that investments in the programs and plans you have listed here remain on equal footing in the long term while still allowing flexibility to address other areas in need.          
    • Thank you for your input.
  • Alexandria’s small businesses need local visitors and tourists to help thrive. Supporting our hospitality sector will help all of our local businesses, while minimizing the local tax burden.
    • Thank you for your input.
  • [no need to take public] As a follow up to Steve, the Digital Equity Plan was requested by the council, and the Comprehensive Health Committee has also recommended that access to broadband could help reduce poverty in the city.
  • We are hoping the Digital Equity Plan will identify what level of broadband the homes have. aka doing a broadband census.       
    • Thank you.
  • Why is Alexandria getting so much more money than Arlington?
    • The money was allocated using a formula.
  • With an election coming up, will the new council have the opportunity to weigh in on projects and spending or will the plans be set entirely by the current council?           
    • They will have an opportunity to weigh in on the 2nd tranche of funds.
  • Will funding be used to link arts programs and mental health programs?
    • Yes, the plans do link participating in upskilling activities with childcare services.

Questions answered live by staff that can be found in meeting recording:

  • Will human and social services include creating neighborhood-based navigators to link neighbors with benefits, services and workforce development?
  • Will funding allow for creating on-line resource guides and hotlines for services?
  • Can the funding be used for online mental health therapy such as Talkspace, Better Help, Teen Counseling and 7 Cups of Tea?
  • Would funding be used to create a teen center within a library such as in the lower level of Burke Library?
  • Will any of the human services funding be used for possible collaborative projects with the Northern Virginia Community College-Alexandria campus?
  • Will funding be used so childcare can be connected to upskilling and workforce training?
  • Do we know what the state will be spending its money on so we aren’t planning to spend money in areas the state will be investing in significantly?
  • Will we be coordinating regionally on projects and programs with a regional benefit?
  • People are leaving Alexandria because they can't afford to live here.  How will these programs help people afford the cost of living in Alexandria?
  • Have you had a chance to look over today's Treasury Guidelines on the use of funds. Are those hard and fast rules or just "guidelines"?
  • Can someone explain the basic income pilot proposal? That sounds dangerous to start without the money to keep it going.
  • How will these programs help to address the needs of undocumented residents in the city?
  • If these are short term programs, how will they have a long-term impact?
  • What types of arts projects are envisioned to be funded by ARPA?
  • Do any of these proposals include funding for a BID in any of the key business areas in Alexandria? Why or why not?
  • We are a nonprofit who provides supported employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities - I don’t see anything in workforce development focused on this population who has extremely low employment rates.
  • Can someone help clarify how Cultural District Authority ARPA funded projects will benefit all the arts in Alexandria?
  • Will the proposed business counselors be duplicative of the SBDC?
  • With the last CARES ACT funding, the Alexandria arts organizations and individual artists, and the City's Office of the Arts were not eligible to receive these funds.  The legislation for the ARPA does allow for the arts.  Can this be confirmed?
  • "Will any of this funding be used to increase the amount allocated for grants to private property owners for flood mitigation projects on their own property?
  • This grant program is vital for many property owners as spot projects and larger projects take time to complete and solve the flooding problem in many neighborhoods."
  • Will any of these projects fund robust language access in order to promote all these amazing proposals and ensure they reach everyone in our community?
  • Apologies for being slow. But I am a big advocate for us doing that Digital Equity broadband census, so just wondering when the city will decide how to use these funds. (We can't effectively respond to our digital have-nots without knowing where they live).
  • Are there plans to begin work for fiber optic service in Alexandria?
  • Will there be enhancements to the RPCA afterschool programs through the ARPA funding?
  • Can we do things like WiFi blasters to provide WiFi to targeted areas quicker than the giant municipal broadband project?
  • Recognizing how much the lights and banners have helped beautification of the city wouldn't it make sense to run light further up Washing ton Steer and South on Washing ton Street as well?
  • Hotels are suffering. What plans do we have to bring group business & leisure travelers back to Alexandria?
  • How will this infusion of funding help speed up the enhancement of broadband in Alexandria?
  • Tourism brings tax revenues from outside of the city and reduces the liabilities of residents.  Hospitality has been hard hit and hotels have had no direct assistance.  ARP guidelines recognize hospitality is in a perilous state and calls out the industry specifically.  Our employees have been working hard on the front lines hosting government officials, first responders and military personnel, were not prioritized for vaccines, and had their hours reduced.  We need real tourism to return, especially social and leisure guests.  What’s the plan to bring back travel through advertising and events, relieve some of the business tax burden on hotels, and help bring our employees back to work?  We’ve come far since this time last year, but we have a long way to go to get back to “normal” and need the help of the ARP to be focused on hospitality and tourism that have been hit so hard.
  • Thank you Ryan for recognizing the impact of the business associations. Are you proposing funds equally for all the associations in the city or will this vary based on size and activity of the association.
  • Can any of the money be retroactive to recover loss of income, particularly for arts & culture?  Are there plans to provide recovery or funds for rebuilding audiences through 2024 knowing that this sector will be impacted over several years?
  • Small businesses around town would not have survived without the help of the small biz associations and SBDC. Is there a way to find funding for these invaluable organizations?
  • Can the money be used, or allocated to help small business chip away at the debt accumulated by many of us who were trying to just survive?
  • Are we able to use this money to build some facilities such as more public restrooms near the waterfront, namely at night? And perhaps more handicapped-friendly fixes so it’s easier for wheel-chair bound guests to visit? This may help attract more out-of-town guests who arrive by motor coach in the fall.
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